ABOUT THAT TIME FAT MILO ATTEMPTED TO BLOW UP THE MOON TO GET A DAY OR TWO OFF FROM WORK….

Fat Milo’s apocalyptic moonbeam was almost complete. There was some fine-tuning left to finish, sure. Some bolts to tighten, some knobs to loosen, a nozzle or two to adjust. But the thing that worried him most– and the thing that had motivated him to take to the moonbeam’s construction with a half-dedicated procrastination– was the Inverted Particle Capacitator Flux. It was the part of the moonbeam that made the moonbeam a moonbeam. It was a palm-sized piece of glass that was responsible for conjuring up the antimatter. This made it extremely dangerous, particularly in the hands of someone like Fat Milo, whose attention was so easily diverted at the exact wrong moments because he preferred to think about things as opposed to, you know, doing them. And if the Inverted Particle Capacitator Flux was stimulated to life at just the wrong moment, all that would happen is that a small nuclear explosion would take place, instantaneously vaporizing Fat Milo and any piece of matter within a 16 mile radius.

Well…perhaps “vaporize” is not the proper term, here. The matter wouldn’t so much as vaporize as just simply cease to exist. Once the antimatter collided with the matter, it would all just transform instantaneously into the utter and profound Nothingness that all of Somethingness springs from.

Anyhow, now was the time. The rest of the laser gun was complete. All that was left was to place the Inverted Particle Capacitator Flux in it’s proper assemblage, aim the barrel toward the giant-ass target that was the moon, turn on the moonbeam and simply sit back and witness the end of the world.

But to what purpose? What was the point of this selfish self-destruction? To what ends was Fat Milo directing his actions?

Well, essentially, he was tired of going to work every day.

Fat Milo had seen a show on the Science Channel one evening, discussing how the Earth would be affected if someone had decided to blow up the moon. It would be bedlam. Molten hot moonpieces would fall to the earth, destroying cities and leading to a mass destruction of life. Plus, he figured, the sheer monumental eventfulness of the moon being decimated would certainly warrant a day or two off from work.

This might seem like an obscenely excessive and brazen escalation of effort on Fat Milo’s part. However, you need to remember that this was the guy who, as a high school kid, was so desperate to get out of wrestling practice that he once spent two weeks tunneling through the subterranean landscape of Rio Frio High School in order to sneak into the wrestling room early one winter morning, before classes started (before the buses had even left the garage) and carve up all the wrestling mats with an ex-acto knife, thereby rendering them wholly useless as apparati.

We can ignore the fact that the wrestling coach simply adjusted by having the wrestling team wrestle outside, in the cold, on top of a frozen football field, which Fat Milo found even more distasteful. The point is that instead of simply quitting the team and moving on with life, Fat Milo thought it reasonable to enact a–essentially–overly-convoluted villainous action movie B-plot so that he could go home and eat cereal and watch reruns on Nickelodeon after school.

And now, instead of simply quitting his job and finding something that was more agreeable with his skills, motivation and temperament, he was going to mount a cataclysmic scheme that would impact every resident of the planet Earth (much like–it should be noted–that his plan to avoid wrestling practice would’ve and should’ve affected every member of the team who actually wanted to be at practice, as well as all the prospective opponents of the wrestling team, who would be competing against a compromised shell of a wrestling team who had to practice in the outdoors, on frozen grass).

This was Fat Milo’s M.O. His aunt, El Chupacabra the Apathetic, used to tell Fat Milo, “I think you’re overthinking things,” such as when Fat Milo posed the theory that the entire history of Zen Buddhism had been a lie, and that the entire purpose had been to send an endless procession of schmucks, such as himself, into a state of nihilistic confusion.

“Either meditate or don’t meditate,” El Chupacabra had stated. “But get out of your own head a bit. The point of Zen is simply to act and not think so much about stupid shit. Save your masturbation tactics for the shower.”

When the moonbeam was complete, Fat Milo took a deep breath. It was a cool summer night somewhere in the backwoods of Crestone, Colorado. These were the same woods where some yokels named El Crow, Pedolo and Lone Wolf had sworn under oath that they had stumbled upon a satanic cult in the midst of a terrible blood-ritual while they were searching for the ever-elusive chupacabra–the beast, not the sham philosopher. The trio had described at first seeing a large bonfire in the distance, as the woods and hills gave way to flat desert land in the Valley. And then, drunk off their own curiosity, they followed the flames to a repugnant ceremony of animal slaughter and spirit-conjuring by a rather disturbingly large group of people draped in capes and sporting what seemed to be spooky Chinese opera masks.

Fat Milo frowned upon such people as El Crow, Pedolo and Lone Wolf. He felt them stupid. They didn’t think about things enough. Always acting on scant information and gut feelings. Always accepting their mistaken and illusory perceptions of things. Always reacting to their emotions and feeble desires. “Not me,” he said to himself. “I am above that.” He did, after all, read profound, meaningful, world-saving books by such luminaries as Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra and Artemis Magnussen.

And when he finished jerking his psyche off to such pornographic ideas of himself, he flipped the switch that would forever alter the nature of an entire planet all so he could garner a couple of days off of work without dipping into his sick leave.

…But it didn’t work.

He flipped the switch again.

Nothing.

He flipped it several times quickly, the clicking of the switch sounding something like the flapping of a dragonfly’s wings.

Still nothing.

He kicked the moonbeam over with a front snap kick. The weapon hit the ground and separated into several dozen useless pieces. The Inverted Particle Capacitator Flux didn’t even create a small quasi-anti-thermonuclear explosion when it collided with the ground, as his calculations suggested it probably would. It simply broke in half and sizzled a small stream of smoke which smelled like concentrated ozone and burnt popcorn.

“ARGHHH,” he growled. “What the fuck?!”

He began his dejected hike back down from the woods into civilization when, upon passing by a lone tree near the bottom of the hills, he felt a warm drop of something fall upon his forehead.

Then another.

And another.

He pulled out his cell-phone to use a flashlight app to shine a light upon the tips of his fingers, which he had used to wipe whatever it was that had fallen upon his brow.

The liquid was dark purple, almost black. And behind him, somebody stated, suddenly:

“We have no idea who you are, but we’ve been waiting for you.”

She was wearing a spooky purple Chinese opera mask, except, for all his self-perceived swells of knowledge, Fat Milo did not know what kind of mask it was, simply that it was spooky.

And off in the distance, down in the Valley, he could see a rather large bonfire which shone like a small city in the wilderness.

A poem Manny Furious wrote about an ingrown toenail, for some reason….

One time I was digging an ingrown toenail

out from within the farthest, deepest crevice of my big toe.

I didn’t know the finer aspects of ripping a sliver of dug-in nail

from my skin, so I didn’t think to soak my foot first

or partake in any other strategy that might simplify

or cool the experience. Instead, I just started digging.

The pain was excruciating. It was as if the nail had burrowed

itself in from my big toe

and grew up through my leg, hips, spine and neck.

“This is a hell of a toenail,” I thought. “It’s been growing for years.”

Finally, I got it out. And it wasn’t nearly 5-feet long

but it should’ve been….

Anyway, the relief I felt was indescribable.

Utter relief.

Pure relief.

The universe and I had become

one

and

there were no more petty worries or concerns.

Just

freedom.

Nothing in this world that I have experienced since then comes

close to replicating that sheer, astounding sense of release.

But the closest is when I look up an old girlfriend or crush

on facebook

… you know, one of those who mere thought of feels you with anguish

and regret and thoughts of “what-could-have-been”?

Yeah, that’s the one. I get closest to that sense of relief when I finally find her, see

her picture and realize that she looks old too much and drinks too much

and has too many posts of bible verses

and the six kids have taken a toll on her mind and body

and she’s about as desirable

as an ingrown toe

nail.

A bit of a weirdo, but not hazardous by any means….

Last evening, during a walk, it struck me how beautiful the dead trees throughout the neighborhood looked against the evening sky. So I took out my phone and started taking pictures.

Don’t do this.

I was taking pictures of a tree outside a house and the owner walked out and was like, “What are you doing here, bro?”

And I was like, “Taking picture of this tree.”

And he was like, “Why? Huh?”

And I said, “Because it looks pretty against the sky.”

At this point he must’ve assumed I was just high, or otherwise cognitively compromised, and he seemed to calm down, but just to assuage his fears a little more, I said, “My name is Manny, man. I live just down the street at 139. I know it looks weird, and I am a bit of a weirdo, but I’m not hazardous by any means.”

He turned out to be a pretty cool dude.

Anyway, I think, “A bit of a weirdo, but not hazardous by any means,” should go on my tombstone.

Dead, black tree branches

silhouetted against an

electric blue sky

–A real, true-blue hydra

except I am no Hercules

 She’s mad at me too–

a squirrel across the street

gives me the stink eye

 Whoa! Watch my step please–

I almost didn’t see you

Brown caterpillar

Walking through the streets–

I dodge some angry vatos

and mounds of dog shit

A poem Manny Furious wrote, for some reasons,about a nervous breakdown Carl Sagan once gave him

For as long as I can remember

I’ve been a big pussy.

I’m afraid of everything.

Anything

really.

If you think long and hard about

all the things that are just sitting back, stalking, chilling in the shadows

waiting

for the proper time to jump out of the ether and kill you,

you’d come up with a long list.










Just off the top of my head–

A random meteorite blazing through the universe

zoning in my my house and

bedroom and

head.

Deer and elk

that materialize out of thin air in front of my

car as I drive 80 miles/hour on the way home at 10 at night. Serial killers.

Bank robbers in a high

speed pursuit

with the police, headed for my intersection

as I head to work in the

morning. Dumb drivers. Distracted drivers.

Drunk drivers. Drivers texting on their cell-phones.

Stoned drivers. Suicidal drivers.

The roads are dangerous, my friend.

Black ice. Slushy roads. Etc.

Ebola. Swine flu. Avian flu.

Tuberculosis.

Cancer of any and all parts of

my body.

A tough piece of meat with its eyes on my esophogus.

Second-hand smoke.

Terrorists… both those at home and abroad.

Like gangstas doing a drive-by.

Or militant white supremacists survivalists.

Both are enamored with fully automatic assault rifles

with hollow tips

or white phosphorous tips

that explode on impact.

Those kinds of tools get

the job done.

I know this because they take topless pictures of themselves

with their assault rifles

and high-powered explosives and post

those pictures on facebook.

Tainted meet.

Undercooked chicken.

Tasty restaurants

that don’t run a tight ship in the kitchen

and all kinds of germs and bacteria get in the tasty

food

and poison me.

Bastards.

Random acts of violence

on the streets of Denver. Stick up kids.

Gas leaks. Carbon monoxide

which I’ve been told

has no taste or smell. Have fun sleeping tonight.

Which I’ve read can also kill you.

Ask Wes Craven.

Wild bears and cougars

looking for food while I camp.

Superviruses.

Flesh-eating viruses.

Dehydration. Unforeseen allergic reactions.

Airplanes.

Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes. tsunamis.

A big fucking rock I might be

climbing

as my ropes fail for whatever random act of the Universe. Lightning.

Brain parasites.

Drains in pools with no protective covering can

suck your guts out. Literally.

Let’s go swimming

with

Sharks and evil jelly fish.

Electricity. Stray dogs.

I’m terrified of dogs. And they can

smell it.

My water heater can explode at any minute

if I don’t keep an eye on it.

It’s

true

I saw it on TV.

Stray bullets

that weren’t meant for me.

Bridges collapse more often than I feel comfortable with.

Aliens.













Aliens?













I used to think aliens wanted to kill me.

I was about, oh…say 9 years old.

I was reading an article in Parade Magazine

written by

one, Carl Sagan. He was a skeptic,

but I didn’t know it at the time

and I didn’t learn it either, because

I never made it past the first paragraph of that article,

which described

Little grey men with heads

twice the size of their bodies.

Eyes the size of compact disks, the color

of DEATH.

Arms and legs skinny

as newborn

babes.

Emotionless

they mill around the foot of your

bed.

Diabolical detail.

What a way to wake up.

Thanks for nothing

Carl Sagan.

Actually,

thanks for the nervous breakdown that ensued.

Chaos. Bedlam in the mind.

Tears enough to give

myself a bath.

Not even mother can save me.

I’m doomed.

Three hours later

I lay in bed with my parents.

Shivering with fear.

Awake with the thoughts

of maniacal midgets from mars

intent on taking me away from my home

and slaughtering me for kicks (or science)

halfway home.

The random and totally expected

creaks and shudders of the home

let me know

THEY were here for me

now.

Nearly 20 years later

they still haven’t come.

But I still haven’t kicked those images.

A total pussy.













And I haven’t even gone into

what happened

after I watched

Fire in the Sky.

But who would

want to read

about

That?

Random Manny Furious Journal Entry: Really good tortillas and posted-up cholos….

I’ve lived in Pueblo, Colorado for a little more than a year-and-a-half now. It’s an interesting place. Lots of vagabonds and hoodlums, and the locals are all overweight and smoke. Drug use runs rampant, and it’s one of those small towns you see on the evening news every so often for having an obscene murder rate. In fact, we made the national news the past couple of months, once for the arrest of a white supremacist who was planning to blow up a synagogue here, and more recently for a murderous rampage some dude went on with a literal axe.

Denver Broncos paraphernalia abound, with flags hanging out of every other home on Sundays, and mailboxes and automobiles all decked out in a blue and orange ugly, pissed-off horse. All of the milquetoast east coast and midwest transplants to Colorado avoid this place almost as much as they avoid having personalities.

All of which is to say, I enjoy Pueblo immensely on most days. But one disappointing aspect has been the dearth of worthwhile Mexican restaurants. This problem isn’t unique to Pueblo, by any means. 20 years ago, Colorado was rife with delicious Mexican-American food. You could get distracted and somehow end up in a shithole restaurant with a hot, delicious plate of chile rellenos and beans sitting in front of you, unsure of how it happened. But in the interim, something has happened and now you can’t find a decent Mexican restaurant even with the help of word of mouth and a GPS. Colorado Springs is, unsurprisingly, more moribund than Pueblo on such matters. But the real disappointment is Denver. Denver is of course large enough to have, by sheer probability, a handful of decent Mexican restaurants, but it’s pathetic how few and far in between they are.

You settle for “okay” or “fine” Mexican-American offerings, but The Soul Remembers. The Soul Remembers that there used to be something called, “Decent Mexican food that wasn’t made at home” and it remembers that you used to eat it, and it remembers that it felt good. And so it’s never quite satisfied when you pay actual money for “fine” or “okay.” It knows something is missing, and it wanders the spiritual realm without you, scouring and hoping for any semblance of what it Remembers.

These enchiladas–

I keep chewing and chewing

but all the flavor

stays trapped inside somewhere

my teeth can’t seem to get to

Anyhow, there is a “decent” taqueria in town. Adolfo’s has a northside location and southside location. They’re, in a philosophical sense, the same restaurant, but the southside location tends to be “pretty good” while the northside location is just “pretty decent.” They both have really good tortillas, though. My issue with the southside location is that everything time I go there, there’s some creepy-looking cholo posted up outside of the restaurant, I’m assuming trying to look hazardous. It’s not the same guy every time. It’s always a different dude. But it’s the same vibe. Usually he’s wearing a big, puffy coat, smoking and trying to evoke an air of toughness. He wants to be intimidating because he is better at violence than you are. He may be selling drugs, but mostly these guys just stare at you and make you want to go home and take a shower and check the sex offender registry. You walk past them when you go in, and you walk past them on your way out, and they don’t say anything or do anything. they just stand there and be fucking weird.

And there’s more than one of them.

I have no point. Just that, it’s hard to get to get some quick, easy Mexican food, and in order to do so you have to deal with these weirdos.

Anyway, the best Mexican place I’ve been to in Pueblo is Garlic and Onions. But I haven’t been to all of them yet.

Cloudy Pueblo day–

Some geese fly overhead and

sing traveler’s songs….

Pizza in his mouth

–a neighborhood squirrel

runs across my fence.

Lazy Sunday morn–

All I want to do is watch

porn and write poems. 

Cognitive Restructuring….

Today was one of those stone-cold bummer days at work. Everything was wrong. Everything went wrong. Everybody hated me and everything I stood for. Nobody hesitated to let me know about it.

None of it was personal, of course. It’s always business, never personal. That’s the truth. Life isn’t personal, it just feels like it is sometimes. But being middle-management means I have to enforce the stupid rules that I have in no way influenced, and I have to get yelled out by the people below me who have to adhere to those rules.

My job is I’m a counselor who supervises other counselors at a community mental health agency. This means the vast majority of our clients are impoverished. This means that counseling is not really going to fix most of these people’s problems. No amount of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is going to help someone pay their rent. No amount of Cognitive Restructuring is going to make sure their next door neighbors aren’t gang-bangers and drug dealers.

Stuff like that.

Lazy day at work

I look outside my window

Watching the Snowfall


Drive outside of town

To watch some porn on my phone

During my lunchtime

Anyway, I had to work late. It was a typical early December evening. It was pitch black when I left the office at 7:00pm. There was leftover snow throughout the parking lot and on the tree skeletons that lined and dotted the parking lot at weird and only semi-coherent intervals. It’s a huge parking lot. Three times, at least, the size of the actual building I work in. And the building I work in is fairly large. It houses the department where I work and the 30 employees therein, a computer lab, a pharmacy, four medical clinics, the entire billing, business information and quality improvement staffs, and a 60-day inpatient substance abuse program.

Anyhow, I was about halfway through the parking lot when I realized I had been running late earlier, and had parked much closer to the building than I typically do, and I shifted directions to make a sharp turn toward the location of my 2012 Nissan Rogue (a grandma’s car if ever there was one), I stepped absentmindedly onto one of the concrete medians separating rows of parking spaces from each other and smacked my head onto the lower branch of one of those tree skeletons.

A punch of snow fell onto my head and onto the ground. The pain was immediate and it felt as though my neck had actually taken the brunt of the impact. I became woozy and ill. It took me a moment to come back fully to life, and I once the coolness of the snow melted, I felt something warm on my skull. I placed a finger there on the warmth and when I removed it, a dab of blood ran down my finger.

I had managed to cut my head on the tree.

It was the perfect end to such an imperfect day. I got into my Rogue and completed the thirty minute ride home is as much silence as I could maintain.

Ice on the roadway

Hidden under the darkness

–I court my own death

Memo from the Empty Suit re: Wearing Superhero-themed Socks with Work Attire….

Good Morning and Happy Monday, All.

This email is to remind you that here at Rio Frio Medical Center we pride ourselves on the professionalism and high-end care we provide to our consumers. They are, and always will be, our number one priority. In fact, it is our mission to provide holistic, integrated, coordinated, evidence-based services to the people of Rio Frio County and its surrounding areas. As long as they have medicaid. Remember that, too, because some of you think we take regular insurance here, and we don’t. Only medicaid. If they don’t have medicaid, they are not a consumer and can go get care somewhere else.

With all that said, part of providing professional and skillful care to our consumers is by presenting ourselves in a professional manner. Part of being a professional is looking the part. Hence RFMC policies such as no visible tattoos, no visible piercings other than on the ear, no jeans, and no hiring of anybody too good looking because that would just be distracting. The exact policy is Addendum 7.23 in the Policies and Procedures Manual and can be found–just as a reminder–prior to Statute 6.69 where we discuss why anal sex is not allowed by any RFMC employee who is not on the executive team. All such policies were encouraged to be implemented by Haskell and Associates, the consultation firm, you might remember, we paid $120,000 last June to come and tell us how to make more money.

Of course, there are gaps in such policies, as it is difficult for even a literal empty suit like me to foresee all the unprofessional behaviors staff will try to get away with. And, as such, please be advised that the policy has been updated to include superhero-themed socks as prohibited work attire. Subsection 2.46 specifies that all of the following non-superhero-themed pop-culture intellectual properties are included in the prohibition:

Start Wars

Harry Potter

Lord of the Rings

Looney Tunes (Please note that sub-subsection 1.23 includes Merrie Melodies under this definition.)

The Simpsons

Family Guy

Breaking Bad

Japanese or any non-American animation of any kind

Bernie Sanders

Disney princesses and Game of Thrones themed apparel will be allowed on Fridays, as part of casual Fridays, because myself and the rest of administration all enjoys these properties.

Staff who fail to comply with such policies will be placed on a Professional Improvement Plan and if they continue to neglect adherence, will be staffed for termination.

Please remember that we on the executive team respect and appreciate all that you do. You, the staff, are the engine of this company. We are a team, a tribe, a family and I would like you to keep in mind your role as a family member whenever you’re asked to work more than 40 hours a week without pay.

Thank you and Merry Christmas.

–The Empty Suit, MS, MBA, PH.D.

CEO, Rio Frio Medical Center.

The Fourth Time Manny Furious saw Lemon Crush….

Rio Frio Medical Center is a designated 401c3 nonprofit, “Community Medical Center” offering “comprehensive”, “holistic”, “coordinated”, medical and mental health, and preventative care, primarily to residents of Rio Frio and its surrounding counties poor and impoverished enough to qualify for what, in the year of our lord 2016, was called “medicaid” benefits.

What all that means is that the institution received (and continues to receive)millions of government dollars in the form of “medicaid capitation” and another million or so dollars in the form of various government and private grants.

While ostensibly a noble task, in practice its a little less so. What such a set-up does is funnel all the poor and impoverished people into one place to get their healthcare needs met. And since the amount of money the institution receives in medicaid funding–its primary funding source by several million–is directly related to the percentage of people receiving medicaid benefits in the Rio Frio region who enroll for services at Rio Frio Medical Center, the real goal of the institution is to get as many poor people into the door as possible. it is a medical care factory. industrialized, efficieny, streamlined, corporatized, consumerized. Getting an industrial amount of people into and out of healre is done under the guise of “providing proper care” to “consumers.” But, its purpose is neoliberal in nature–it’s really about capitalizing on a market demand to make vast sums of money for “the system.” So, in the defense of the Empty Suit and its flunkies, they, themselves, are not raking in the millions for themselves. All that sweet, gushing government money goes back into The System, so that The Systm may perpetuate as long as medicaid dollars exist. And when that change… then–and only then–so too will The System.

The Empty Suit and its cronies are not totally blameless or innocent, however. They all make six figures for the sole purpose of keeping The System satiated and health and capable of its asexual form of reproduction, which, in the terms of the business is called “expansion” or “growth.” They are nurses, caregivers for the system. They foster it, nurture it, and keep it alive and thriving. They do this by not actually being in the office very much. Instead, they are out and about attending conferences and state senate meetings where they eat steak and rub shoulders with politicians and other legislative/philanthropic geeks, whom the Empty Suit and its groupies will attempt to seduce into loosening up their economic sphincters and shitting out even more money to feed The System.

The–the Empty Suit and his minions–even get company cars and private jets so that they can rush back from such meetings to put more pressure on the healthcare provers to somehow see more patience, document more thoroughly, bill more substantially, and pledge fealty to The System more dogmatically–all in the same amount of worktime and same pay they’ve had since the turn of the millenium when workloads were far less draconian.

All of which leads to high provider burnout and turnover. Most of the best therapists, for example, will do a two year sentence at Rio Frio Med to get the proper professional licensing credential, as well as any relevant professional training paid for, before leaving to go start a private practice (cash only) or try to work at a college somewhere. Meanwhile their positions at Rio Frio Med (RFMC) are filled by over-their-head novices and/or apathetic burnouts who lack the creativity to do something different with their lives.

Then, on top of all that, providers are limited in what kind of services they can provide to clients/patients/”consumers”, because medicaid (the government) of course doesn’t want to pay for any of this, it’s its own system, with its own survival instinct, so you can’t ever provide a service that might be helpful, if it’s not “evidence based” for a particular malady for the simple fact that medicaid won’t pay for anything medicaid doesn’t want to pay for, and RFMC doesn’t want that, obviously.

Hence: compromised and not-as-effective-as-it-should-or-could-be medical/mental health care.

So…the poor people do what the system wants them to do best–be exploited. Make money for others. Provide gristle for the mill, as it were. The system needs calories, and it will gladly take it from the marrow of the poor. And the cheaper, the better.

I bring all of this up as a rather longwinded, roundabout preamble for emphasizing just how utterly and inexcusably superfluous and gratuitous RFMC’s yearly Hard Cider Fest fundraiser is. Held every July, it is a popular social and networking event in the greater northwestern New Mexico region, bringing visitors from the nearest four counties, at least, and from as far away as Farmington and Taos.

Even so, after calculating for the literal monetary costs of putting on the event–including the costs of paying for the manpower, venue and prizes–it, on average, going on its 10th year, now, clears about $75,000 each time. That’s about 1/80 to 1/100 of the yearly operating budge of RFMC, and, roughly, would pay for the salary of one nurse, if that’s what they used the money on.

Therefore, it seems self-explanatory about what the event is really about–smug self-congratulation. And, also, I suppose, for the affected, awkward attempts of the administrative staff–the Empty Suit and its cronies, and their cronies of the cronies (pure, distilled American Mediocrity down to their khakis, pink skin, phony smiles and forced nonchalant allusions to Malcolm Gladwell dropped mid-conversation)–to act human.

Furious was a recovering alcoholic, of course. But he attended the event his first year working at the medical center out of a modest curiosity, and slightly less modest boredom.

Over 40 types of hard cider were served the year he went, from more than a dozen cider mills–pear, apple, peach, currant, plum, even pomegranate. There were ciders that supposedly paired well with brunch prime rib and lunch quiche and dinner fish–but none, Furious noted, that paired all that well with is grim hate and self-loathing.

In his drinking days, Furious didn’t drink much cider. He always enjoyed the flavor, but he was an American Male back then, even if he denied it, and thus insecure. Having a penis and testicles and the general feelings of just being male wasn’t enough. Like all American Males, he had to prove to himself he was a man. And so, something as innocuous and irrelevant as drinking alcohol that didn’t taste like something that was trying to kill you sent shivers through his delicate sense of masculinity, and he avoided mixed drinks, wine and any other alcohol–including cider–that tasted ok.

Now, back at the Cider Fest, he found himself enjoying the food–hors d’oeuvres of bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers, bacon-wrapped scallops, bacon-wrapped smoked vienna sausages, bacon-wrapped turkey bacon, etc. Robust offerings. As manly and masculine as finger foods could be.

He was standing at a table serving dessert ciders, because that particularly table was also serving bacon-wrapped yogurt pretzels.

He felt himself leaning. There was a source static electricity of sorts in the air, somewhere, and it was pulling at his arm, leg and head hairs like a charged balloon. It was subtle, but it was present.

And soon it was getting stronger. He felt as if he was going to be shocked. As if someone had just slid down a plastic slide and was hovering somewhere behind him.

Was this an anxiety attack, he wondered. A stroke? What was this feeling? This vague nervousness?

Just then, he knew it when he saw her. Lemon Crush was present and had made her way over to the dessert ciders.

“Ooooh,” she cooed. “this one’ smy favorite.” She held up a bottle of Floraison, a cherry cider that was brewed three hours north in the San Juan mountains of Colorado.

She was gorgeous, Furious thought, in that exact word–gorgeous. She was wearing a short red dress that accentuating the turns of her curves, and her hazel eyes were extra green that evening. But, again, it wasn’t just her appearance. There was a holistic gorgeousness to her, and, as far as he was concerned, it a brazen act of the Universe.

He froze looking at her. Her beauty was gorgonizing, but not from any magical serpents writhing form her skull. Her beauty wasn’t blinding, per se, but, sure, it was arresting, like a summer sunset, when the summer’s air starts to cool, and the sky seems to be infinite shades of orange and purple and pink.

It wasn’t just some physical, primal, evolutionary reaction of a sort. At least, it didn’t feel that way. There was a spooky energy between the two. Furious swore the very air around her changed hues ever so slightly when she approached, and on his end, he felt a subtle buzz throughout his body, as though he had gone swimming in a pool that had been slightly electrified by a short in one of its filtering systems.

“Hubba-da,” Furious mumbled.

He glanced a the bottle of cider Lemon held up. He was familiar with the brand and the flavor of it. if that was really her favorite, he thought her taste was too basic, too inelegant, too unrefined. It was a far too sweet of a cider. One may as well drink straight cherry juice, or a cherry soda, even, for at least the sweetness of those drinks would be sullied by the slight wince of alcohol.

But he couldn’t say that out loud, of course. Even he knew that. Don’t besmirch a beautiful woman’s choice of drink.

Or should he?

Wasn’t this what “negging” was about? Establish the high ground with her, by slightly and playfully insulting her. he had read that somewhere, some time, neither of which he could remember. And he had been repulsed by the idea, but–

“What are you drinking?” Lemon interrupted.

“I’m not drinking.”

“Yes you are,” she insisted slightly incredulously and nodding toward the drink in Furious’s hand.

“It’s just seltzer water.”

He wanted to say something smooth, clever, funny. but all he heard in his mind was a bewildering darkness. His mind was so devoid of thoughts that when he attempted to search for any, all he found was a colorless, soundless, tasteless void. In retrospect he would wonder if Lemon had accidentally put him in the mythic Buddhist state of Samadhi.

In the meantime, Lemon smushed her face together and the skin on her nose crumbled into rolls. “Why are you drinking seltzer water?”

“It’s a long story,” said Furious.

But it wasn’t a long story at all. He had a drinking problem. He was an alcoholic. He was in “recovery.” Any which way he chose to tell the story would be quite brief.

“Well, what are you eating?” She asked. The server was filling her glass with the deep, royal, maroon dessert cider.

“Bacon-wrapped something or another.”

“Sounds yummy.”

Furious shrugged.

“Here, taste this,” Lemon offered Furious her own glass.

He looked at the glass.

He looked at Lemon.

He looked at the glass.

He looked at Lemon.

“Take it, silly,” she said. “My arm’s getting tired.”

“Also,” the server at the table added. “There’s a line of people, and you’re holding it up…sir.” He motioned to the line of about 15 people pretending to be patient, as they waited on some moron not drinking cider at the Cider Fest to take a drink of cider being offered by a beautiful woman at the Cider Fest.

Furious took the glass and took a drink.

“Tastes like cherry juice,” he said, trying to somehow make a declarative sentence into a joke.

Lemon took the glass back and said, so excitedly she almost growled, “I know! That’s why I like it.

“Tootles,” she cooed as she turned and walked away.

Furious watched her as she ambled all the way back to the table she was sitting at. She shared the table with several of the RFMC administrators, women i nevening dresses and men in slacks and ties with job titles like, “Assistant Associate Director of Supervisors of Quality Compliance,” and “Team Lead of Managers of Business Information and Analytics.”

The MBAs had long since gotten their bloody little claws on nonprofits, and here we were.

But he didn’t see Captain Colt Crush anywhere. He stared for several moments and assumed he–Captain Colt Crush–must’ve been working a shift that evening.

“Sir,” the server stated. He was wearing a maroon vest and bowtie with a white button-up and black slacks. He looked familiar, but Furious couldn’t place him.

“Yeah, I know,” Furious replied, distractedly, still attuned to the movements of Lemon. “I’m holding up the line.”

“Well, sure, but…you’re gonna fall, I think.”

Furious’s mind returned to itself, and he realized he was once again leaning toward her vicinity in that physics-defying, anti-physiologically possible manner that only Lemon could summon.

He leaned himself back into physiologically-coherent position, cleared his throat and went home.